[Originally published in the Rutland Herald on 2/24/11]
Once again, Rutland is at a crossroads. With the expansion and renovation of the Giorgetti arena, we are faced with a choice that, either way, will have a lasting impact on our community.
Voting yes allows us to put another piece of the puzzle into place. If you haven’t noticed, Rutland has been experiencing a renaissance of sorts in the last few years. Momentum has been building, and you need only take a look around Rutland to see the proof.
Likewise, the farmers’ market continues to grow, bringing fresh, local food to the people year round.
Pine Hill Park, an unequivocal treasure, continues to garner national acclaim as a recreation destination.
All these examples have had and will continue to have both cultural and economic impacts on Rutland. Beyond that, they have given us a sense of pride – pride that was captured so deftly last year in “The Blood in this Town,” a film that demonstrated what Rutland is capable of when it rolls ups its sleeves and sets its mind on a goal.
But while the film celebrated Rutland’s spirit and the energy of groups like the Creative Economy, the Herald has rightfully pointed out all the work cannot be done on the backs of volunteer efforts and grassroots can-do-it-ness.
As the Herald stated, “it’s time for the general populace to step forward.” It is an investment that is sound, necessary and, at an average cost to the taxpayer of $15 a year, equitable.
Alderman Sean Sargeant put it simply: “We must be willing to invest in ourselves before others will invest in Rutland.”
Opponents say that infrastructure issues should take precedent. That’s a fair concern; however, I don’t think anyone in City Hall believes that renovating and expanding Giorgetti should or will come at the cost of improving our sewers.
Indeed, there are serious infrastructure issues facing the city. We need to address them all. Mayor Louras is correct in identifying this rec center as an infrastructure project every bit as essential to the health and future of Rutland as sewers, roads and sidewalks.
Let’s look at our current recreation infrastructure for a moment. Dana School was a temporary fix. Outdated and inefficient, it is a Band-Aid that was never intended to meet the needs of a real, functional recreation center that fully serves a community of our size.
I do not believe people who oppose this project are anti-recreation or anti-community. Opponents have said that given the current economic climate, this is not the right time to be pursuing such a project. Well, when is the “right time”?
As Castleton State College President Dave Wolk said in his recent op-ed in support of the project, building a rec center was discussed and abandoned when he was on the Board of Alderman – over 30 years ago. Are we going to kick the can down the road yet again? Are we going to fall into the all too familiar Rutland “rut” of taking one step forward and two steps back?
Voting yes is a vote for breaking that cycle. It is a vote that says you want to continue moving Rutland forward. At the end of the day, this vote represents the direction in which we want to take Rutland. We have come so far in the last few years, and we need to continue building that momentum.
There are a number of other projects on the horizon, each one promising to do its part to help Rutland continue to turn the corner. On West Street, Community College of Vermont will build a brand new campus, adding activity and development to a long-neglected section of the downtown.
A block away, the Center Street Alley project will likely break ground this year, providing the community with a safe, usable public gathering space and increased opportunities for business development downtown.
Also this year, construction on the first leg of the Creek Path will begin, another recreational asset that will very tangibly connect Giorgetti to the rest of the community.
Separately, each of these projects is a catalyst. They create a ripple effect that will stimulate economic growth and community pride. But the sum is greater than its parts. Together they represent the renaissance so many of us have envisioned and been working so hard for. The Giorgetti Arena is an essential part of that vision.
On March 1, Rutland will be given an opportunity. Will we take it?
Get more information on the Giorgetti project HERE.